Live Better for Less – April 2012

by Cate on April 9, 2012

Friday sunset
So it’s been a week since the kick-off of the Live Better for Less Challenge.  For those that joined in, how did you do?  Good?  Bad?  Indifferent?  More tips and tricks to share?  If you commented on this post, report below and we’ll let the random number generator pick someone for the BUILT NY lunch tote.

When I was looking at our February spending, there were a bunch of random $2, $3, $4 listings in the food column.  Drive-thrus.  Not for food.  Not at all.  All drinks.  Every last one.  For the days when the kids can’t make the ten minute trip home and NEED. A. DRINK. NOW.  For the Mama who gave up Diet Coke OVER SEVEN WEEKS AGO and needs a caffeine boost stat in the form of an Iced Coffee.  For the convenience factor that everyone doesn’t have to pile out of the car, into the store, and back to the car.  Those drive-thru charges.

Went adios for the month of March.

I talked to the kids about it.  We voted.  They were down with it.  I love that my kids love a challenge.  Understand the need to change things up sometimes.

During the entire month of March, we only hit the drive-thru twice.

And I feel exactly ZERO guilt about it.  The first time was at 12:45 am, on the way back home from the hospital with Madeline, and I was trying to lure her to drink.  Something.  Anything.  And the promise of Sprite did the trick.

The second time was later that week, when Nick was sick with the same ailment.

Both times, we had a quick family discussion about it.

Everyone had to agree.

Because we were breaking our self-imposed challenge.

We decided the cause justified the detour from our no-drive-thrus-challenge.

“But we go right back to no drive-thrus tomorrow!” Nick declared from the back seat.


And we did.  And here it is, April 9th, and month two of no drive-thrus.  In fact, as we celebrated our success at the end of March, Nick wanted to know what change we were going to make for April.

I love them.  How open they are to trying something new.  How much they’re like little sponges, soaking everything up.  How they thought something that saved us time! money! gas! was fun.

And for the record, for the month of April and our new challenge, we added weekly stops to the library.  I love our library.  And we go.  But not nearly often enough.  A designated library bag hangs near the front door (to cut down on losing track of library books), and everyone checks out a short stack when we go.  I love how much they love reading.  That a trip to the library and the local used book store is something fun for them.

One more tip before I go?  I was talking about erranding a few months back with a friend of mine and she said she has a “three stop rule.”  If she’s going out in the car, she has to have three stops to make.  Otherwise she waits until she does.  And how much sense does that make?  It’s too easy to just run out for one quick thing.  And driving an SUV and pumping $3.75/gallon of gas into my car, I am ALL about planning my routes carefully.  So ever since then, I put way more thought into every trip we make with the car.  Even in the mornings when I’m dropping the kids off.  If we run out to the grocery store, we add the library, and drop something off at a friend’s house too.  The key is to plan your routes carefully.  To think about it ahead of time.  Not every trip is going to have three stops.  Because that’s reality.  But I will be as efficient as I possibly can to make the most use out of my time and the gas.  And since my gas expenses dropped $42 from February to March, I have to think that the efficient route planning and lack of drive-thrus were absolute game changers.

YOUR TURN.  What change did you make in the last week?

Did you know that April is Financial Literacy Month?  The folks at TD Bank are all about getting kids to save, and as luck would have it, they sent over the below tips just this afternoon.  Perfect timing if you ask me.

Tomorrow?  A super healthy, super delicious dinner.

Wednesday?  Wordless.

Thursday? We head South.  And to the zoo.

*The winner of the lunch tote will be drawn tomorrow to give those doing the challenge a chance to check in.

**I’m going to be doing the Live Better for Less Challenge the first week of every month, so stay tuned for more tips and challenges to come.

***That sunset at the top?  Random picture the kids took last week for me.

****Tweet today’s post for an extra entry.

The ABC’s of Saving Money
Shared by TD Bank

Show them ways to earn money. Talk to your child about your job and what you do to earn your paycheck. Discuss what they can do to start earning money on their own. Consider offering an allowance for household chores. In your neighborhood, there may be opportunities for them to earn money doing yard work or shoveling. As they get older, encourage them to research babysitting positions or to look for a part time job after school and on the weekends.

Advise them about earning interest on savings. Let them know that the bank will actually PAY them to keep their money in a savings account by depositing interest every month. They may want to keep their money close, but knowing that their balance will get bigger in a savings account, without too much effort from them, may change their mind. While interest rates may change, it’s always zero percent for their piggy banks!

Verify their understanding of Needs vs. Wants. This may be the toughest part of the discussion. They may feel that they need that toy to play with or have to have those new jeans to wear to school. In order to help them recognize when to spend and when to save, it is vital to teach them the difference between needs and wants. Consider sitting down with them to make a list of items they want to buy and discuss which category each item would fall under. This is also a good time to talk to them about helping others and donating some of their money to charity. Encourage them to designate their funds into separate categories: saving, spending and donating.

Explain the cost of borrowing money. With the growing number of advertisements focused on the ease of applying for home and auto loans, your child may get the impression that borrowing money is an easy solution when they want something. Discuss responsible borrowing and make sure they understand the cost of borrowing money. Use an example from your own borrowing history to show them how much an item cost and how much you actually paid for it. Talk to them about why you made that decision to borrow and if it was worth it. These are decisions they will have to make at some point and, as we know, children are likely to copy the financial habits of their parents.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Betsy April 9, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Knocked $25 off my phone/internet bill by tweaking/getting a new package. And spent $5/month more (huh – but makes sense) by switching to Verizons family plan — this way for $5/month more I get unlimited text (no biggie), and data package instead of just only minutes.

Great job with the kids, teaching them great skills. I used to work with someone that had a hard time getting her kids on board, the would just say but I’m thirsty noowwww. Love how you talked about it and voted, how did you “pitch” it to the kids. Maybe I can pass on some tips to her.

I restarted my empty all my change at the end of the day into my “save” can. And, when I save some money (make dinner out of what I had on hand, rather than perhaps takeout) and toss a few bucks in can. I was tempted to buy a new cookbook (haven’t bought one in a few years), resisted…. ordered it from my library) and put $10 (low ball amount) in my can.


Joanne April 10, 2012 at 6:20 am

I successfully MAJORLY cut down my extraneous trips to the grocery store from every day to once (it was an emergency, needed almond paste for rainbow cookies). I love the idea of incorporating going to the library more often into my life…I think that might have to be next month’s because I love to read for pleasure but don’t do it enough!


patsy April 10, 2012 at 7:18 am

What a great challenge! I noticed something you pinned yesterday that I think I’m going to try this month… putting aside money everytime I get in a workout, that should be great motivation and then I can spend the money on a “treat” like a mani/pedi or something else non-food related!


Michelle April 10, 2012 at 8:13 am

I did okay. My challenge was to cut out extraneous spending, like grabbing a cup of coffee or a lunch salad on the go because I didn’t make it at home. I was pretty good about not eating out, but still found myself occasionally getting the cup of coffee. However, this has generally been a good challenge in terms of making myself more mindful of my spending habits!


Sabrina April 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

I just donated some money to the library in gratitude for how much money they save me! I preview tons of non-fiction – such as cookbooks and craft books – before a possible purchase, read best-sellers, and borrow DVDs and music.
I walk when possible for errands, and try for at least 3 tasks in an auto trip.


Jeri April 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Wow….this was a wake up call on mindless spending. I do okay for the planned expenses. But a little bit here, stopping for one thing at the store while leaving with ten and drive thru’s for drinks. The goal for this week is to cut drive-thru’s out, especially half-price drinks at Sonic at a certain time of the day.

I consolidated the loose change collections (one in the car, by the washing machine, on the dresser, in the drawer at work, etc.). I took the change to Coinstar and exchanged it for a card to Lowe’s. So far, my extra change has bought 20 bags of mulch. I also started putting away every $5 bill I get into an envelope. Every time I get change back from a larger bill with a five dollar bill, it goes into the pot. It’s small enough to not major but large enough to make a difference. In five days, I collected $35. Haven’t decided where that will go yet.


Sarah April 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I cut way back on my grocery trips, which in turn cut back on extraneous spending (you know, the extra 5 things you buy every time you are in the grocery).


Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef April 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

I ate out of the freezer so I could clean it and I put out a “giving bowl” for us to place our loose change in to give to our favorite charity,, a girl’s orphanage in Indonesia.

I like the 3-stop idea!


Christina April 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I’ve been doing a couple things to cut down on expenses… Namely, stay OUT of Target! I easily spend $100 every single time I go, even if it’s just to stop in for toilet paper. I now go once every 3-4 months. I also started making coffee every morning and packing a lunch for my husband and I. We both keep a few backup frozen lunches at work for emergencies. Lastly, we carpool to work on days where my husband works at his “downtown” office. This saves on gas and gives us extra time to catch up on our day. It’s so nice! I have started really looking forward to our carpool days.


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